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Image: © Elekes Andor via Wikimedia Commons

Hungarians have been asked to work an extra 400 hours a year.

They’re not chuffed about it.

Thousands of Hungarians are protesting over the so-called ‘slave law’.

What it means: This weekend, the streets of Budapest were filled with 10,000 Hungarians angry about a new law which basically gives employers the right to ask staff to work up to 400 hours of overtime every year. (For full time workers, that would extend every work day by just under two hours). Companies have to pay for this overtime, but, oddly, they can wait up to three years before handing their employees that cash.

The logic behind the law is that Hungary is having a bit of a problem getting all its work done. Basically, there are more jobs around than Hungarians to do it. The unemployment rate is already really low (4.2 percent). Hungarians are also having less kids than they once did, so the population is shrinking, and lots of them are emigrating away. Hungary is part of the EU, so all Hungarians are able to go live and work in other EU countries whenever they want, thanks to the freedom of movement policy.

If Hungary wants to maintain the amount of things (goods and services) it creates it needs either more workers or workers need to do more work. Finding new workers would be easy: in the last few years, more than a million peoplehave tried to move to Europe from places like Syria, Iran and Sub-Saharan Africa. But the democratically-elected Hungarian government is super anti-migrant: the Hungarian Prime Minister calls them “a poison” and says Hungary doesn’t need “a single migrant”. So he’s gone for solution two: ask Hungarians workers to do a lot more work instead.

Generally, working long hours means the quality of work we do goes way down, because human brains and bodies get tired. So a pro-migrant policy would probs be better for Hungary in pure money terms. But people who dislike migration may prefer a smaller economy (i.e. less money in it) over having to share their society with people from different backgrounds and cultures. How economies are run often boils down to values, not cold hard cash.

Read our explainers on the labour market and immigration.

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